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A CASE STUDY 

ZYLERIUM BLINDNESS 



M.E. 214b 

Human Factors in. Design 
Department of Mechanical Engineering 
Stanford University 




U.N. ASSEMBLY HEARS TERRIFYING IMPLICATIONS OF RARC DISCOVERIES 

United Nations, N.Yo Sept. 17, 1966 Associated Press Release 



Doctors Ivan Makelovitch of Moscow and Percival McGooch of Harvard shocked 
the world with their report to a special meeting of the General Assembly 
here today. Presenting the first official report of the Russian American 
Research Council, they stated that the newly discovered element, zylerium, 
is probably responsible for the rapid increase in the incidence of con- 
genital blindness in the world ! s peoples. 

M In a long series of controlled experiments, small quantities of zylerium 
were administered to animal subjects," the report stated. "Thirty-four 
per cent of the offspring of the injected animals were blind at birth. 

One hundred per cent of the second generation offspring of these injected 
animals were born blind. The experiment is by no means complete. We 
are relectant to generalize these findings to the human race at this 
time. Yet, we feel these data strongly suggest that even the minute 
traces of zylerium found free in our atmosphere may be responsible for 
the recent increase in congenital blindness. We shall proceed in our 
studies as rapidly as is humanly possible, and shall continue to make 
public our findings." The twenty-seven page report spelled out in 
statistical and medical detail the results of the much heralded 
zylerium-animal experiments. 

The RARC Report struck an ominous note at the general assembly meeting. 
Many of the representatives were taken completely by surprise. Some 
few of the representatives admitted to this reporter afterward that 
they were expecting this news, after the announcement at the recent 
convention of the International Physical Society. 

A proposal to expand the scope of the present research program, made 
by the Canadian delegation, was unanimously approved in the assembly. 
Starting tomorrow, the World Health Organization will hold a series 
of special meetings to decide what immediate measures can be taken 
to protect the world* s peoples from this peril. 




SOVIET EXPERIMENTS PROPHESY TOTAL BLINDNESS IN TWO GENERATIONS 
Petrograd, USSR Sept, 23, 1966 International News Release 



Late last night came the announcement from the Petrograd Biophysical 
Laboratories that the destructive mechanism of the notorious element 
zylerium had at last been discovered. Dr, Igor Krldsczyk, eminent 
cytologist, who has been working feverishly with his small group of 
scientists to study the particular effects of zylerium on the visual 
senses, made the announcement. 

His report was not optimistic. He stated that electron microscope 
studies had revealed that traces of the element zylerium have been 
absorbed by essentially all organic matter on earth. These traces, 
though extremely small, have caused irreversible mutations in the 
chromosome structure of every animal among certain higher order species, 
man included. The chromosome transmutations will cause blindness in 
a certain percentage of first generation offspring, he explained. He 
further claimed that no second generation offspring will be spared. 

Dr, Krldsczyk reported that the statistical conclusions of the animal 
studies of the Russian American Research Council had been corroborated 
by his work with the electron microscope, 

"The very significant fact," he stated, "is that the animal and human 
tissues tested were not injected with zylerium. Yet, traces of this 
element sufficient to cause the critical transmutations were found 
within the tissues in every case. No experimental subject was spared 
the calamitous effects of the powerful element. This implies that 
zylerium has already been absorbed in critical quantity by practically 
every human on earth. Since the transmutation is irreversible, no 
corrective measures seem possible," 




CRUCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF ZYLERIUM REPORT NOW SEEN 

William H. Flinger, Special Correspondent for the New York Times 

September 24, 1966 



Just seven months ago a group of British Scientists announced the dis- 
covery of a new element, zylerium. The announcement was made in a 
conventional scientific paper given at a conventional scientific meeting, 
the annual convention of the International Physical Society in Geneva, 
How ironical that this announcement, which led to the terrifying events 
of this month, should have been made in Geneva where continued but 
unsuccessful attempts have been made for peace. 

The paper was conventional, but the nature of the discovery was not. 

A new element was uncovered. It was initially uncovered not as one 
would have guessed -- by atomic physicists. The discoverers were 
astronomers, using telescopes and spectrographs. By sheer coincidence, 
while peering into outer space, they noticed that a kind of radiation 
distortion was upsetting their measurements. Efforts to trace the 
cause of this distortion led them to re-examination of optical trans- 
missivity properties of various layers of the world’s atmosphere. It 
was at this point that the physicists were called in. 

Further research led to this inescapable conclusion: Something new 

was holding forth in the upper atmosphere. Something was there which 
most certainly had not been there a few years before -- during the 
International Geophysical Year and for three years thereafter, when 
the nature and composition of the earth’s atmosphere had been so 
carefully and completely inventoried. 

After the physicists were called in, it was but two months before the 
cards were on the table. It was an entirely new substance -- a new 
element, in fact, which caused the atmospheric disturbance. This new 
element was resulting from a heretofore unknown nuclear reaction 
taking place in the ozone of the upper atmosphere. What had caused this 
reaction? The first hunch of the combined astronomer-physicist group 
proved to be correct. The nuclear explosions of the infamous Bering 
Strait Incident five years past had been of sufficient force to set 
off this much slower type of previously unknown and undreamt of reaction. 
Atomic theory had been pointing in this direction for several years. 

It took the Bering Strait Incident to prove the theory. 

At present, scientists know no way of stopping this slow but deadly 
reaction, or of eliminating its byproduct. The discovery of zylerium 
may go down in the annals of history as the worst news science has 
ever released to the world. Or, it may be a great blessing. Perhaps 
this announcement, made at Geneva, the city of the struggle for peace, 
has at last brought to the world a new kind of peace. 




THE BERING STRAIT INCIDENT MAY NEVER BE SETTLED -- BUT DOES IT MATTER? 

Peter J. Balsopp, Syndicated Columnist 

Septo 25, 1966 



It was July of 1961 . There was a deadlock in the cold war such as the 
world had never known„ The issues were the conventional ones . Who owns 
the atmosphere o (The weather balloon question, which caused so much 
trouble back in 1956 had been revived . ) And, there was the other 
problem -- undersea mining rights . Both the U.S* and the Soviet Union 
had built up defenses, one in the Aleutians and the other across the 
Bering Strait, using these bases as jumping off spots for high altitude 
reconaissance, each over the other's country, and for practicing 
military operations in the Arctic . Both countries had been using their 
military engineering and transport equipment, stationed at these bases, 
to exploit the undersea uranium deposits recently discovered just north 
of the Arctic circle « Each side was charging the other with interfering 
with submarine transportation of "legitimately mined ores. n Tension 
was at a peak, and each side, rationalizing in terms of bluff value, 
had pointed "concentrated blast" missiles toward the other's military 
base on the opposite side of the strait . 

The result was almost inevitable. During an electrical storm on the 
evening of July 13th, the first missile was fired. The second followed 
within seconds. The explosions reaped total distruction on both bases. 
There were no survivors, except for the occupants of three Soviet 
aircraft doing reconaissance missions over the north pole and the crew 
members of an American submarine submerged for a research mission some 
forty miles from the American Base, 

Each side claimed that the other fired first, that their own missile 
would have been fired only if the flight of another missile had been 
detected and was shown to be heading across the Bering Strait. 

Scientists have searched in vain to determine which missile was fired 
first. No evidence has been found at the site of the missile launcher 
nor anywhere around the bases themselves. There were some seismographic 
records, but since the explosions took place in adjacent areas, there 
is still considerable disagreement as to the interpretation of the 
seismographic recordings. There were seismographs at both bases, but 
these were destroyed. The closest ones to record the explosions were 
in Seattle, Washington, and Tokyo. 

The radioactive fallout was fairly well localized, largely due to recent 
"improvements" In concentrated blast weapons. Some drifted over Alaska 
and caused an epidemic of radiation sickness. A great many caribou 
of the Alaskan and Northwest Canadian wilds were affected. 

The incident caused an immediate furor in the United Nations and in 
diplomatic circles all over the world. In record time the U.S. and 
Soviet Union came to an agreement. The agreement was to abolish 
nuclear weapons of all types. Concurrent with this were important 
new steps toward total disarmament, with means to achieve an effective 




inspection and control plan within the year. 

Six months after the Bering Strait Incident a sharp increase in con- 
genital blindness was noted in hospitals the world over. The blame 
was immediately placed on the nuclear explosion. There were interna- 
tional damage suits and legal wrangles. The rate of congenital blindness 
increased. From most scientific quarters the claim that blindness had 
resulted from the nuclear explosions was sharply denied. It was argued 
that even though these may have been the most powerful explosions from 
the standpoint of total energy released, the radioactive fallout was 
minimal and highly localized over the blast area. The radioactive 
fallout could not possibly have affected people the world over. Was 
a new, highly contagious virus in the air? "Impossible, " said the 
medical researchers. "Peoples of certain isolated communities in the 
world have been affected in the same way as those in metropolitan 
areas." No proof could be found that the nuclear blasts were in any 
way connected with the alarming turn of events. 

The truth is now before the world. The argument still rages over who 
lit the first match, and to many it seems important that the guilty 
party be brought to the international witness stand. But to some 
prophetic few, it is time to stop the argument and to consider only the 
matter of solving the problem at hand. The recent announcement of the 
RARC to the U.N. assembly, coupled with the report of the Petrograd 
Biophysical Laboratory, has brought the world face to face with the 
grim fact of increasing congenital blindness. This affliction is not 
limited by geographical area or by ideological loyalty. It is ironic 
that the prospect of universal darkness should be the path to peaceful 
cooperation. 

In the light of scientific findings, it seems foolhardy to waste time, 
effort, and money on further legal proceedings. Let us unite our 
knowledge and resources to combat the approaching danger. Who fired 
the first shot in the Bering Strait Incident may always remain a 
mystery . . . but does it matter? 





U .No OUTLINES FOUR POINT PROGRAM TO MEET BLINDNESS CRISIS 

New York Herald Tribune, United Nations , New York, Sept 0 27 , 1966 





The U.N. Security Council agreed today to a four point program to cope 
with the rapidly growing problem of blindness in our younger generation. 

The bitter realization that the grandchildren of the present generation 
will live in a sightless world has stimulated the U.N. to complete a 
"five day session" in record time -- in this case, one and one-half 
days. The United Nations chambers have seen an unprecedented pace of 
activity. The exchange of economic and scientific information has 
been conducted with great dispatch, and security problems , even rules, 
have been ignored. Great and far reaching recommendations have been 
made. It remains only for the General Assembly to approve the recom- 
mendations at a special meeting tomorrow. Unanimous approval is 
anticipated. 

Briefly, the recommended program is as follows: 

1. A world educational council will be set up, wherein all 
countries pool information regarding techniques for educating 
the blind -- from nursery school age on. Problems concerning 
the survival of art and literature will be within the scope 
of the council, 

2. Basic research pertinent to the zylerium blindness problem, 
especially with regard to possible prevention, will be 
undertaken on a large scale by every nation, A U.No Research 
Coordination Council will be created, 

3. Active development of machines and procedures will be spon- 
sored by government contracts in the broad fields of trans- 
portation, communication, manufacturing, business procedures, 
building, etc, A U.N. Human Engineering Development Council 
will be created to coordinate these engineering developments. 

Local legislation will be encouraged to provide for partial 
modification of existing roads, buildings, and other public 
and private facilities, for installing and testing new equip- 
ment for anticipated conditions of total blindness. 

4. National governments will take immediate steps to educate 
their citizens as to the nature of the forthcoming problems, 
to prevent panic and hysteria Insofar as possible, and to 
enlist the cooperation of state and city governments in 
effecting a smooth evolution of community life. 

The program spelled out in detail the means of achieving the desired 
ends under each of the four points. There seemed to be no disagreement 
among U.N. representatives. However, there are expected to be some 
amendments to the details of the program. 




Shortly after the news of the Security Council proposals was received 
at the White House, the President made an unscheduled broadcast over 
the nation* s radio and television channels, He wholeheartedly endorsed 
the proposed UoNo program and promised one hundred per cent cooperation 
from the United States « He announced that he was recommending an 
immediate reorganization of all Department of Defense facilities so as 
to provide construction and test personnel of all types for development 
projects. He also announced that recommendations for radical changes 
in the national budget would be made soon, He begged that engineers, 
scientists, and medical doctors cooperate with forthcoming organized 
planning programs and devote their attentions to the zylerium blindness 
research and development problems wherever and whenever possible. He 
assured them that their creative autonomy would be respected to the 
fullest, and that cooperation in the new research and development 
programs would in no way be compulsory •